Voted the Greatest Briton of all time in 2002, the figure of Winston Churchill looms large over both British history and world cinema.
Over thirty actors have depicted the two-time PM on-screen and it takes a performance of real strength to capture his complex character.
Some have it, some don’t. Here are our picks of the best and worst of on-screen Churchills.
BEST – Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
We can’t get enough of Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour – here’s our review for you to find out why. He’s bagged the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award already, the BAFTA’s a cert, surely the Oscar too?
WORST – Viktor Stanitsyn (The Battle of Stalingrad/The Lights of Baku/The Fall of Berlin/Unforgettable 1919)
A Soviet propaganda film was never going to yield the greatest Churchill but this one really is something. Imagine Churchill being played by the King of the Gungans in The Phantom Menace. Has to be seen to be believed:
BEST – Brian Cox (Churchill)
Only last year, Jonathan Teplitzky’s Churchill was a mixed affair and proved controversially revisionist. At it’s heart, however, was a terrific, if slightly Scottish, turn by Brian Cox.
WORST – Timothy Spall (The King’s Speech)
Our love for Timothy Spall, and indeed Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, doesn’t stave our disappointment with his take on Winston Churchill. It’s all just a bit too pantomime for us; subtlety goes a long way.
BEST – Simon Ward (Young Winston)
Perhaps not the greatest film from Richard Attenborough but a rare example of a film which recognises that Churchill wasn’t born with drooping jowls and a cigar. Indeed, young Winston had rather an exciting early life; portrayed with guns ho here by Simon Ward.
Honourable Mention – Rod Taylor (Inglorious Basterds)
Taken seriously, Quentin Tarantino’s war mash-up is faintly offensive. Taken as intended, however, it’s a riot. Best known for The Birds and One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Rod Taylor prepared extensively to cameo in the film as Winston Churchill himself. Tarantino sticks him in the corner and gives him a scattershot of lines, whilst Mike Myers and Michael Fassbender talk about German cinema. As the script read:
“Hicox’s eye’s go to the formidable bulldog behind the piano, who’s scrutinizing him behind his cigar. However the man behind the cigar makes no gesture, and the General, makes no acknowledgment of the three hundred pound gorilla in the room. Which Lt.Hicox knows enough to mean, if Churchell isn’t introduced, he ain’t there.”
Bizarre and a little bit brilliant.